One of my favorite topics on this blog involves documenting some of the strategies I use to travel cheaply. Signing up for credit card bonuses periodically is one strategy I use.
I don’t sign up for every credit card bonus that rolls around, but I do take advantage of some that help me achieve some goals
. I’m looking to build up enough points to travel to Japan for the Olympics in 2020 as well as a trip or two in the intervening couple of years.
I’d like to travel in business class for the trip to Asia. I’ve never done it, but if I’m going to, I think that a long flight to Hong Kong or Japan would be a good time to try it out. I need a few big signup bonuses to make this happen, which brings me to my latest credit card.
The card that I chose to make my latest signup bonus was the AAdvantage Aviator Red from Barclaycard. (This is not a referral link. I do not get any compensation, but I think it’s a good option that I wanted to share.)
The reason? It’s about the easiest signup bonus that I, or anyone else can hope to get.
The card comes with a nice 60,000-mile bonus with American Airlines’ Aadvantage program. There have been options that offered more AA miles before. However, they have required a relatively high level of spending.
Especially when compared with the Aviator Red World Elite MasterCard. You get the 60,000 Aadvantage miles after making a purchase. ONE. Of anything…a pack of gum or a Coke will work. You also have to pay off the $95 annual fee.
Therefore, you could get 60,0001 miles for spending $1 and paying off $95. That’s a total expense of $96, which is not huge when taking into consideration what you could get. Here are some other benefits of the card:
2 miles per dollar spent with American Airlines
1 mile per every dollar spent on everything else
A free checked bag on domestic flights
10% of your redeemed miles back each year, up to 10,000 total AAdvantage miles
These are pretty good benefits for no more than you have to spend.
What Can You Get With the Bonus?
With the bonus from the AAdvantage Aviator Red, you can get some pretty good flight options. This bonus of 60,000 miles should get you at least two round-trip economy flights in the continental US. American Airlines also offers many cities at some pretty hefty discounts. These reduced mileage awards could mean that you could nearly get three round-trip flights in the US with just a little more spending.
Additionally, it’s possible to get an off-peak saver award to Europe for 45,000 miles. It’s 60,000 miles during the peak season, which means that you can get a round-trip flight to Europe with the signup bonus alone. Just make sure that you take American planes to avoid hefty fuel surcharges that partners like British Airways charge.
This signup bonus can also possibly provide a round-trip flight to the Caribbean or Hawaii if you can find award space.
American Airlines is probably not the best frequent flyer program out there, but this hefty bonus for relatively little effort was too hard to pass up.
Have you signed up for any credit card bonuses lately? Let me know in the comments.
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2016 is about to pass into the record books, and 2017 is about to commence. One of the major strategies I’ve been thinking about as I get ready to embark upon the new year is what the best travel credit cards that might help me achieve my goals in the near future would be. I’m already planning what cards I might like to apply for to maximize my travel benefits over the next few years. Here are 5 cards that I’m seriously considering having myself or my wifedoodle apply for in 2017.
1. Chase Sapphire Reserve
When Chase first announced its new Sapphire Reserve card in mid-2016, I must admit that it piqued my interest. 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points made up what I’ve been referring to as the “Mother of All Credit Card Bonuses” and puts the Reserve at the top of my list of travel credit cards for 2017. Unfortunately, I ran afoul of the infamous 5/24 rule with Chase and was denied getting the Sapphire Reserve in a fail of epic proportions.
Fortunately, the wife got the card, and we set up a European itinerary of epic proportions. While I’d like to start on the bonus ASAP, I’m waiting until around February to try my luck with another application so that I can maximize the travel reimbursement to offset the hefty $450 annual fee that comes with the card. I’ve already gotten this card as of 1/4. I learned that the 100,000 bonus was getting slashed in half on 1/11, so I risked the hard pull and got approved.
2. Chase Sapphire Preferred
I already have this card, so you might wonder why I’d want another. It’s not for me. My hope is to cancel my card when I (hopefully) get its more impressive brother, the Reserve. However, the 50,000 Ultimate Reward point signup bonus is nothing to sneeze at. For this reason, I’ll have the wife attempt to cash in on this card around the time that her Reserve card is up for a renewal of the annual fee. That way, we’ll earn more than 150,000 Ultimate Rewards points this year from the signup bonuses and minimum spends.
Keep in mind that this is all subject to approval in relation to the infamous 5/24 rule. While the two Sapphire cards might not seem like the best credit card for travel miles, the ability to transfer them to airlines like United, Southwest, British, and Air France/KLM, among others, make them a great flexible option. They’re also two of the best credit cards for travel because they don’t carry any foreign transaction costs.
If you’d like to help support this site while signing up for a credit card, you can apply for the Sapphire Preferred with the 50,000 bonus after spending $4,000 in three months. This card has a $95 annual fee, and Chase waives it for the first year if you’re worried about having to pay out the $450 that the Sapphire Reserve requires.
This is the best offer that’s currently available publicly, but I’ll also earn 10,000 points for the first five approved referrals if you apply through the link above. You can go straight to Chase to get the same benefits, but I definitely appreciate any support you might choose to give.
3. CitiBusiness AAdvantage Card
Another of the travel credit cards I want to get this year is the CitiBusiness AAdvantage Card. This card currently has a nice 50,000 mile bonus in return for spending $3,000 over three months. These miles are limited to the American Airlines AAdvantage program, and I’m looking to top these off as we go into 2018 as I have another family vacation that I’m hoping to take to Europe and perhaps a bit beyond. Both the wife and I have recently had the personal version, so this is likely the only chance we’ll have to score a bonus in the near future because of tighter restrictions with Citi approvals (although there is also the new 40,000 bonus from Barclaycard and the AAdvantage Aviator Red card). H/T to Million Mile Secrets for this last little bit of info.
4. Starwood Preferred Guest (Personal Version)
I’ve already earned the bonus for this card, which was 35,000 StarPoints when I first picked it up. I transferred all of my points to American Airlines when there was a 20 percent bonus promotion going on, and it went along with 10,000 bonus miles because of the 5,000 bonus for every 20,000 transferred. Now, I’ll have to let my wife apply for this one. The reason? You can transfer all of the points from the bonus, currently at 25,000, to Marriott, which is my favorite hotel chain. They’ll transfer at a 1:3 rate, which means that the bonus plus the automatic spending would be worth at least 84,000 Marriott Rewards points.
Pair Starwood With Marriott
I’ve never done this before, but I’m thinking of attempting to get one of the vacation package deals with Marriott that give a week at a nice resort (hopefully in some tropical location in Hawaii, Mexico, or the Caribbean) and some frequent flyer miles to get there in addition to the hotel stay. I would recommend going directly through the Starwood site to get this card. I could refer you, but I think that the flexibility of the points is better than the two nights you’d get from my referral, so I won’t even give it. If you’d like to build up some Marriott points, however, feel free to check out my link to that deal by clicking on the Twitter link like the example above. Again, I appreciate any support that you decide to give the site.
Also, if you’re not yet a member of the Marriott Rewards program, you can get 2,000 bonus points for each of your first five stays for a possible total of 10,000 bonus points by letting me refer you to the program. You should let me know you want referred in the comments of this blog (you have to give your email address to post a comment), and I’ll send the email.
Then you can also apply for the Marriott Rewards Premier card. You’ll get 80,000 points, which is the current standard offer, and in the spirit of full disclosure, I’ll get 20,000 points for the referral. Again, I appreciate any support you feel free to give me. I would also point out that there is the possibility for 5 points on the first $30,000 of spend in the first year with another link, but the 80,000 points for $3,000 in 90 days is easier to attain and you could earn even more signup bonuses from other programs during the same year.
You could use your points for a room like this one that I enjoyed at the Renaissance Aruba Resort and Casino.
5. American Express Gold Card (Personal Version)
The last of the travel credit cards I’m looking at is the American Express Gold. This card does not come with a massively huge signup bonus at this time. It’s only 25,000 Membership Rewards points, but Amex waives the annual fee of $195 for the first year and the minimum spending level is $2,000 in three months to earn the bonus. This will pair quite nicely with my recent acquisition of my first business card, the Amex Blue for Business.
I’ve avoided Delta after having been pretty much locked into them because of geography for about three years in the fairly recent past. I also ignored them because of their reputation of having a loyalty currency derisively known as SkyPesos by those in the travel rewards community. However, I recently did a few searches and found quite a bit of low-level availability to Europe…in the summer even. This made me rethink the value of Membership Rewards, and since neither I, nor my wife, has had many Amex cards, I decided it might be time to start collecting them.
These are only five of the travel credit cards that I’m considering this year. There are others the I might get depending on what comes down the pipe. Perhaps Amex will offer another 70,000 bonus on the Delta cards, or the Alaska Airways cards will increase their bonuses to 50,000.
Maybe a card issuer will come out with a card that no one yet knows about that will have a bonus that even eclipses than the “Mother of All Credit Card Bonuses” of the Sapphire reserve. My goal is always to find the best credit card for travel miles at any given time. These five applications are not set in stone, but they are definitely on the radar. What cards might you want to get this year to help fund your travel goals? Be sure to let us know in the comments
Disclaimer: You can go into serious debt with travel credit cards. I recommend only using them if you can pay them off in full on a monthly basis. Otherwise, the interest charges eat up the travel or cashback rewards. Apply at your own risk.
This is a blog about earning money without putting in time in an office, a fast food joint, or on a construction site. I aim to earn money from home so that I don’t have to spend more time away from the house. I definitely believe that there is more to life than money, but that more money can make life easier and open up options that are not available without it. I believe that a personal finance blog can be a great opportunity to show people hacks that can make their lives better. While earning money in pajamas can improve life, it’s also possible to get some great experiences without spending much. Last year, I wrote a post on how to save massive amounts of money on great trips with frequent flyer miles and hotel points.
Last month, I was able to cash in a load of these points and miles to get a deeply discounted trip to Europe. I cashed in 240,000 American Airlines Aadvantage miles to get six (count ’em, six) off-season tickets to Europe. These came from a couple of American Airlines sign-up bonuses and a couple of bonuses from the old US Airways card. I had long had Paris on my bucket list, and chose to visit the French capital on my vacation. One of the coolest things about the American Airlines award tickets is the ability to purchase one-way awards. Therefore, I decided that it would be a great opportunity to visit another European city in the process. I had to make sure that the tickets were on American Airlines flights (not with a partner like British Airways) because of fuel surcharges that are pretty massive on partner flights. I checked out tickets for my available dates to see if Rome, Barcelona, or Dublin would work. I struck out on each of these, but was able to land a flight to Madrid. Four of the tickets would leave from one city and two would leave from another airport substantially to the east of where I would be flying out of. The total cost of each of these flights was less than $90–the cost of taxes that are required even with an award flight.
Obligatory picture of the Eiffel Tour, or Le Tour Eiffel as the French call it, taken from my personal phone.
Because my flights to and from Europe had what is called in the industry an open jaw, I had to get from Madrid to Paris. I did not have enough points to get the flight for taxes. Therefore, I checked on Expedia, and I was able to land flights for less than $70 each on Iberia Airlines. I could have gotten a slightly cheaper flight on a budget carrier, but these flights nickel and dime passengers with fees for just about anything, including carry-on bags. The total cost of six tickets from the US to Madrid, Madrid to Paris, and Paris to the US was right around $1,000 total. That’s the power of points and miles.
The Royal Palace in Madrid, again, taken by me
I then had to deal with getting lodging while in Europe. I only had a night to spend in Spain before a trip to Paris. I was able to get two rooms at a Holiday Inn Express in the Madrid area for free with IHG points. I then needed five nights in Paris. I was just short of the 280,000 points that I needed to get two rooms at the Marriott Charles de Gualle Airport hotel. I wound up spending $87.50 for the points I needed to put me over the top. Two rooms, one of which was upgraded to a family room upon arrival, for five nights cost a total of $87.50. Altogether, lodging and airfare for six people was slightly more than $1,000. That’s hard to beat. Of course, there were other expenses that added up over the trip, including food, tickets to Disneyland Paris, Versailles, the Louvre, ground transportation, and a day trip to Madrid and Toledo. Overall, it was a great trip, and it cost a fraction of what it might have had I attempted to pay the rack rate. While this was not a result of earning money in pajamas, it was an instance where taking advantage of opportunities that were available got me some great memories at a great discount.
A few credit card applications, meeting some spending bonuses buying stuff that I would be buying anyway, and cashing in the points I earned were all it took to take a dream vacation to Europe. Please note that I only recommend this for people who are able to pay off their cards on a monthly basis, as interest payments can quickly take away any benefit that the points provide and lead to massive amounts of debt. Proceed with caution if you have a spending problem. Also, remember that it’s important to actually have a good credit score to qualify for the bonuses.
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